I love baseball, but in the words of Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, that was brutal.
It was kind of like the Yankees and Red Sox playing, only without the playoff race. Three hours and twenty-four minutes on a hot and humid afternoon at Wrigley Field produced 13 hits, four runs, a handful of walks, 20 strikeouts and 316 pitches, some of which were even thrown for strikes.
The Cubs managed just one run off a pitcher who spent the entire season in Triple-A.
Ryan Dempster threw all 316 pitches in the game. No, wait. That's not right. It only seemed like he did that -- in the first three innings. Why Dempster was sent out for the seventh inning after having thrown 113 pitches in the first six on perhaps the last steamy day of the summer is beyond me -- yet another inscrutable Mike Quade decision. Then Quade failed to bring Sean Marshall in to pitch to Neil Walker with a runner on third base and two out in that inning; Kerry Wood walked Walker, setting up Jose Tabata's RBI single that iced the Pirates' lead.
Ice. This entire game should be frozen and thawed out to show young players how baseball should not be played.
The Cubs simply could not solve Brian Burres; Carlos Pena hit his team-leading 25th home run leading off the second inning. I could probably stop there, because the Cubs had just four more singles the rest of the way and got only three runners past first base. After Burres was lifted, the Pirates bullpen did an excellent job; no one reached base at all against Jason Grilli, Chris Leroux, Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan, who probably would be pitching for another team if the Pirates hadn't still been fairly close to first place at the July 31 trading deadline.
As most of you know, I haven't been a big fan of Bryan LaHair, who blasted Pacific Coast League pitching and set an Iowa franchise record for home runs this year. But LaHair was recalled and in uniform today as rosters expanded for September.
I still don't think LaHair is going to turn into anything special, but since he is on the roster now, why on Earth wouldn't you give this guy a chance to pinch-hit instead of Blake DeWitt in the ninth inning? If LaHair is here, it would seem to me to be useful to give him playing time against another non-contending team. We already know what DeWitt can do.
I guess the big race for fourth place was on Mike Quade's mind as he sent DeWitt to his doom against Hanrahan. It was so dull that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sent a relief pitcher, Brad Lincoln, up to pinch-hit for another relief pitcher in the eighth inning. He hit the ball harder, grounding out, than most of the Cubs did on Friday.
Attendance watch: the announced attendance of 35,153 (maybe 20,000 in the house) brought the season total to 2,613,877 over 70 dates, an average of 37,341. The Cubs must draw 386,123 on average over the season's final 11 home dates -- an average of 35,102 -- to make it to three million. It'll be very, very close. While this weekend may draw fairly well, the two night games vs. the Reds next week probably won't, especially with cooler weather heading this way.
And, at the very least, perhaps tomorrow's game will be a little more... interesting. (And shorter.)